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Share the Road Campaign Should be Binned

Humberside Police Share the Road campaign sign
Humberside Police Share the Road campaign sign

I came across this Humberside Police Share the Road campaign sign the other day, near Nafferton.

I believe the campaign is badly misguided, unhelpful, and should be binned. This is why.

1) It Puts Equal Responsibility on Potential Bully and Potential Victim

The Humberside Police Share the Road campaign page begins with this paragraph:

‘Share the Road is asking all road users to think about their attitudes on the road. If we were all a bit more considerate, rather than competing and losing our temper, then we’d all have better, safer and less stressful journeys.’

humberside police share the road campaign

If this message was addressed to drivers, asking them to be more considerate to each other, I’d have no problem with it.

As it is, it is suggesting that there is equal responsibility on drivers and on vulnerable road users like horse riders and cyclists to keep each other safe. That is plainly rubbish.

No one on a bike has ever put a car driver in physical danger; the driver is safe in their metal box.

On the other hand, their car weighs over a tonne, has a powerful motor, and can travel at high speeds. It is not designed primarily as a lethal weapon, but it is a lethal weapon.

In other words – and this shouldn’t need explaining, but apparently it does – the driver is a danger to the cyclist, but the cyclist is not a danger to the driver.

Fox and Chicken

Share the Road is equivalent to talking to a fox and a chicken before you go out and leave them alone together. “Play nicely and don’t hurt each other,” you could say, but it would also be rubbish.

The fox is in no danger whatsoever of being eaten by the chicken. It’s the chicken who is in peril.

Someone driving a vehicle can potentially be a bully, using their lethal weapon to threaten a victim on a bike or a horse. Putting equal responsibility on the potential bully and their potential victim is wrong.

2) It Legitimises Angry Drivers’ Misconceptions

‘Misunderstanding is a major cause of conflict. Some cyclists feel threatened by inconsiderate driving and close overtaking. Whilst some drivers can’t understand why cyclists at times ride in the middle of the road, or ride two abreast.’

humerbside police share the road campaign

This is rank nonsense, and Humberside Police should be ashamed of themselves for publishing it.

Close Passes are not “Misunderstanding”

The reason people on bikes feel threatened by dangerous driving and close overtaking is that they are threatened by dangerous driving and close overtaking. It happens every time you go out on a ride.

In 2020, 141 pedal cyclists were killed on Britain’s roads. This is not a misunderstanding, it is a fact. The only misunderstanding here is on the part of Humberside Police.

Repeating Rubbish About the Middle of the Road

Most people who ride bikes develop effective strategies to make sure they aren’t put in danger or killed by drivers.

This may involve ‘taking the lane’ where it’s not safe to overtake, and allowing drivers to overtake where it is safe. No one wants to ride a long way with an impatient driver behind them.

By the way, it’s the middle of the lane, not the middle of the road. ‘The middle of the road’ tends to be used by angry and ignorant cyclist-haters in newspaper comment sections and on social media. It’s pretty appalling to see Humberside Police using it and effectively legitimising it.

Similarly, if you’re out on a ride with someone it’s natural to want to chat side by side, but you’ll let drivers past when it’s safe. No one is interested in keeping a driver stuck behind them for mile after mile – it wouldn’t be relaxing at all, and in practice it doesn’t happen.

It’s worth noting that where Humberside Police have placed this sign, taking the lane or riding side by side is irrelevant. It’s a single track road, so generally it won’t make any difference – road users will have to negotiate their way past each other.

Also, if a driver can’t see you on a road like that regardless of whether you’ve dressed bright to be seen, they need specs.

3) False Equivalence

Close passes and other dangerous driving put cyclists in physical danger. Some ignorant drivers may get angry if they perceive that they have been delayed a few seconds by someone on a bike, but that is not equivalent to physical danger.

To reiterate, physical danger and (usually misconceived) anger at a slight delay are not the same; this is false equivalence.

4) Failure to Apply the Hierarchy of Road Users

Humberside Police’s campaign doesn’t take account of the Hierarchy of Road Users in the Highway Code.

Hierarchy of Road Users
Hierarchy of Road Users

Share the Road doesn’t put the greatest responsibility on those who can cause the greatest harm. That is an error.

5) Sharing the Road in Practice

People need to share the road, but on the basis of a true understanding of the dangers and responsibilities – not on the basis of conflating physical danger and politeness.

Somewhere near the sign pictured at the top of the page, I came across a hay wagon which took the whole of the road. I was happy to go onto the verge to let it past. The driver was going slowly, and waved his thanks – all fine, no problem.

This was a matter of politeness or etiquette; I had no way of putting the driver in danger even if I wanted to.

That is very different to the tractor driver quoted here, who drives straight at people on bikes without slowing down, fantasising about killing them and pressure-washing them off a tractor wheel afterwards.

That is threatening someone’s life, putting them in physical danger, and it is very nasty and dangerous.

The difference should not need explaining to Humberside Police or anyone else, but apparently it does.

Summary

These 50-50 responsibility “let’s all be nice to each other” campaigns are fundamentally wrong and unhelpful.

Humberside Police’s Share the Road effort is guilty of false equivalence, it legitimises angry drivers’ misconceptions, and it fails to apply the Hierarchy of Road Users.

The Share the Road campaign should be binned.

Share the Road Campaign Should be Binned

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